Books of Wonder raising funds in hopes of staying in Lower Manhattan

The Books of Wonder location at 18 W. 18 St. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

BY GABE HERMAN | Books of Wonder, a Chelsea children’s bookshop which has been a Downtown fixture for decades, faces an expiring lease and has started an online campaign to raise funds for a move to a nearby location.

The store first opened on Hudson Street in Greenwich Village in 1980. It has moved several times since then but has been at 18 W. 18 St. since 2004. The shop offers new and classic children’s books, and hosts author and artist events on a regular basis. It opened an Upper West Side location in 2017.

With the 18th Street lease expiring at the end of this year, the shop has a new location picked out in the Flatiron District. But the shop needs funds to renovate the space and make the move, about $250,000 to $350,000 overall, according to the shop’s online campaign page, which is at gofundme.com/f/help-books-of-wonder-relocate.

The online campaign page explains that the store is in need of working capital after sub-tenants, including a bakery/café/caterer, ran into financial troubles and had to close. This removed a source that paid 40 percent of the rent, leaving Books of Wonder now having to pay most of it on its own.

The online campaign, which started on Oct. 22, has raised over $20,500 from 120 donors as of Nov. 3. The shop plans to do a broader outreach effort as well, including through the store’s mailing list and social media, according to founder and owner Peter Glassman.

“Our friends are reaching out to their crowds to help us,” Glassman said, “which is something we’re very appreciative of.”

He said the response so far has been “very positive” to the fundraising effort, and described his mood as “hopefully optimistic.”

Glassman said he would like to keep a location in Lower Manhattan if possible, noting that the store is in its 40th year and “we certainly have a large following down here.”

Glassman has been approached about other fundraising ideas, including an auction. “We’re working on it,” he said of the overall fundraising effort. “We’re going to try everything we can.”

If the shop has to close for a few months and put things into storage, that would also be a possibility, according to Glassman. “I’m hoping it won’t come to that,” he said.

The store will be open for Christmas and the holiday season, and Glassman said of the community, “I’m hoping they’ll come by and celebrate with us.”

Glassman said they have a lot of friends in the neighborhood, and the shop doesn’t want to say goodbye to them. The shop has influenced thousands of kids to become readers over the years, he said, adding, “That’s something we’re very proud of.”

Glassman will turn 60 in January, and said he wants to continue the business for several years, noting that it could be his last hurrah. He’s proud when he hears from parents who say they went to the shop as kids, and now are bringing their kids to the store.

“That means the world to me,” Glassman said, “and I want to keep going.”